The trusty month of May

February 26, 2009

It’s “Manga Month” again in Diamond’s Previews catalog. When this crops up each year, there’s always a small part of me that sneers and says, “Oh, like the direct market really cares.” Still, there are lots of wonderful-looking upcoming arrivals among the listings.

I find it very difficult to resist bittersweet comics about helping the recently or not-so-recently deceased deal with the fact that they’re… well… dead. CMX offers another variation on this theme, Ballad of a Shinigami, illustrated by Asuka Izumi, original story by K-Ske Hasegawa. (Page 121.)

Manga Month might just be coincidental with their regular release schedule, but Del Rey brings it. New volumes of Mushishi, Pumpkin Scissors, and Toto! The Wonderful Adventure are among the offerings. (Pages 240-241.)

And holy crap, Digital Manga is listing the fourth volume of Fumi Yoshinaga’s Flower of Life! With a great big two-page spread, which it totally deserves! And the first three volumes are offered again, so you can order all four! Oh, May, you can’t come soon enough. (Pages 248-249.)

But wait, there’s more! Jiro Taniguchi is one of those creators where I feel I can safely recommend his work even if I’ve never seen the title in question. Fanfare will be shipping the first volume of Taniguchi’s A Distant Neighborhood this month, which sounds like a lovely blend of mystery and nostalgia. (Page 252.)

Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim sound like peanut butter and chocolate to me, so I’m very much looking forward to their joint effort, The Eternal Smile, from First Second. Yang handles the writing, and Kim draws the pictures. It’s a collection of three stories. (Page 256.)

I’ve been dying for someone to license work by Daisuke Igarashi and staring enviously at France when I see his works recognized at festivals like Angoulême. Viz makes me happy by announcing the first volume of Igarashi’s Children of the Sea. Now do Witches. (Page 295.)

I’m not familiar with it at all, but Yen Press does a good job piquing my interest with the solicitation for The History of West Wing, written by Jiayu Sun and illustrated by Guo Guo. It’s a “full-color historical romance based on a classic Chinese romance saga.” (Page 303.)

Upcoming 2/25/2009

February 24, 2009

Tumbling tumbleweeds and the howl of a lonesome coyote, to be honest.

CMX does have the seventh volume of Yoshito Usui’s Crayon Shin-chan, and DC rolls out the second volume of its Starman Omnibus. I really enjoyed the vast majority of James Robinson’s Starman stories. I already own them in pamphlets or trade paperbacks, though, so I don’t need to cough up $50.

I also have a question for people who follow this sort of thing. Is the number of variant covers Marvel is offering normal for a given week, or is this just some kind of perfect storm? It seems like there are an awful lot of them. And how long have they been offering variant covers on their hardcover collections? I thought we were in a recession. What do retailers actually do when faced with this kind of deluge?


February 23, 2009
A panel from "Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga"

After last week’s Flipped, I decided a lightening of tone was in order.

Moving on to deeper issues, am I really the only one who cares that an all-male theater troupe is doing a stage version of Fruits Basket? Seriously?

Update: The estimable John Jakala offers five more funny books. And by that I mean “books that are funny” and not grandpa saying, “In my day, funnybooks cost a nickel, and Dr. Light kept his tights on, consarn it.”

Who botches the Watchmen?

February 22, 2009

In the run-up to the release of the Watchmen movie, there have been displays of naked terror at how grossly the movie’s creators will mangle author Alan Moore’s original vision. My first inclination is to snigger at the extremity of these anxieties.

I’ll confess that I don’t view Watchmen with any particular reverence. Comics and I had decided to see other people at the time of its original publication, so I wasn’t at what one could call ground zero. In fact, I didn’t read it until I had started reading comics again and saw its influence being misapplied by creator after creator.

So instead of viewing it as a shot across the bow, it was that comic that spawned a bunch of terrible imitators who thought Watchmen was really cool but generally missed the point and thought its tonal elements were much more portable than they actually were.

Aside from that, just about every movie adaptation of a comic book stands a really good chance of being kind of terrible. (I’ve also largely stopped going to them, because every time there’s a commercial for Iron Man or The Dark Knight or something, my partner gives me a look that plainly says, “This is your fault.” I’ve been feigning deafness when he looks at the new Entertainment Weekly and asks me to explain Watchmen. Fortunately, he’s quickly distracted by the magazine’s sick obsession with Lost.) And really, I’m sure I’ll be to see Dr. Manhattan’s package all over the web within hours of the movie’s premiere, so why subject myself to the unpleasantness of movie attendance (i.e. “Hell is other people”)?

But I’ve been through the pain of botched movie adaptations of properties I love in their original form. Here are some of the worst offenders:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: When the director of the film says repeatedly and publicly that his guiding principle was to make the shortest Harry Potter film to date, disappointment is inevitable. Still, this seemed more like a show-choir presentation of a musical than any kind of movie – clipped, truncated, and comprehensible only if you’ve read the book, but if you’ve read the book, you’d be really annoyed.

A Chorus Line: Lots and lots of stage musicals have suffered indignities aplenty when translated for the cinema. (Exceptions: The Music Man, My Fair Lady, Chicago.) And while Sir Richard Attenborough made many fine films during his distinguished career, choosing to film a musical about dancers that never actually shows much dancing was probably not a very good idea.

A Little Night Music: I can see the logic of casting Elizabeth Taylor as an adultery-prone actress of a certain age, but not this particular adultery-prone actress of a certain age. And while the role hardly begs for a classically trained set of pipes (Glynis Johns didn’t have them), breathy timidity doesn’t do the songs any favors. (Trivia bonus: Like Hairspray, this is a movie musical based on a stage musical based on a non-musical movie, Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night.)

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: When Clint Eastwood takes a fancy to a book I like, I should just stay away. (I can give him a pass on Mystic River, since I realized after seeing the movie that I wouldn’t have liked the book at all if I’d ever tried to read any of the dialogue aloud, because OUCH.) My clearest memory of Midnight, the movie, is John Cusack mugging desperately in an attempt to convince the audience that something quirky and fascinating was happening. He was entirely alone in that opinion.

The Witches of Eastwick and Steel Magnolias: The Witches of Eastwick is a good novel, and Steel Magnolias is a terrible play, but I’m fond of them both, and neither deserved the star-driven hack jobs they received. (I saw a drag production of Magnolias in a bar once, and it was probably the best staging the play will ever know.)

Must… not… make… “Basket”… joke

February 20, 2009

There is nothing about the lead of this story from The Daily Yomiuri that does not delight me. NOTHING.

Body count

February 20, 2009

Simon Jones of Icarus Comics points out a round of Diamond cancellations at the (possibly not-safe-for-work but always essential) Icarus blog. Jones is keeping a stiff upper lip:

“But whatever the case, being cancelled by Diamond doesn’t mean the book won’t make it out. We’re a publisher, damn it, and the fate of our catalogue isn’t decided by any distributor, oh no girlfriend, nuh-uh. AAA Anime will have it. PCR Distributing will have it. Last Gasp probably will have it. TRSI will have it. And you will have it.”

Other publishers branded with “the dreaded code 3… canceled by Previews” include Media Blasters and Viz.

VizBig dreamin’

February 18, 2009

Looking over the Viz titles that Diamond plans to de-list, I see several series that really deserve the VizBig treatement–if not for the casual consumer (i.e. me), then for the libraries that are making a commitment to buying manga and graphic novels. Here are the books I’d most like to see re-issued in that three-for-one format:

  • Banana Fish
  • Basara
  • The Drifting Classroom
  • Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President
  • Firefighter Daigo of Company M
  • Flowers & Bees
  • From Far Away
  • Kekkaishi
  • Maison Ikkoku
  • Mermaid Saga
  • Please Save My Earth
  • Red River
  • The Return of Lum: Urusei Yatsura

I’d add Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs to the list, but then I’d have to publicly admit that I enjoy such a totally schlocky series.

As for titles that are already out of print, my top candidates would be Rumiko Takahashi’s Rumic Trilogy and Mitsuru Adachi’s Short Program. I’d also love to see X/1999 re-issued in omnibus format, as many of the early volumes are exceptionally difficult to find in stores. And it goes without saying that I’d love to see Viz re-issue No. 5 in any format, though I realize I’m more likely to see a woman in the White House first.

Stuff wisely

February 18, 2009

So the Harvey Awards nomination process is underway, and creative types can make a bid to recognize their favorite peers and works in a wide variety of categories. You may remember me keening and gnashing my teeth over some of last year’s nominations.

For a change of pace, I thought I’d go the Force Works/Extreme Justice proactive route this year. Instead of recoiling in horror at the prospect of ever seeing the phrase “Harvey Award winner Witchblade Manga,” I’ve decided to take a stab at prevention. Toward that end, here are some books from 2008 that you might consider for the Best American Edition of Foreign Material category:

  • Aya of Yop City, written by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Clément Oubrerie, published by Drawn & Quarterly
  • Disappearance Diary, written and illustrated by Hideo Azuma, published by Fanfare/Ponent Mon
  • Dororo, written and illustrated by Osamu Tezuka, published by Vertical
  • Fluffy, written and illustrated by Simone Lia, published by Dark Horse
  • Little Nothings: The Curse of the Umbrella, written and illustrated by Lewis Trondheim, published by NBM
  • Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip – Book Three, written and illustrated by Jansson, published by Drawn & Quarterly
  • Real, written and illustrated by Takehiko Inou, published by Viz
  • Seduce Me after the Show, written and illustrated by est em, published by Deux Press
  • Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro, written and illustrated by Satoko Kiyuduki, published by Yen Press
  • solanin, written and illustrated by , published by Viz
  • There. Ten perfectly respectable potential nominations for your consideration. (And everyone should feel free to contribute their own suggestions in the comments.) I should also note that several of these books are also eligible for other awards.


    February 17, 2009

    So in Monday’s column I expressed the opinion that it seemed unlikely that Diamond could make the decision to de-list a thousand Viz books without some participation of the publisher. Based on what a Viz source told me, it seems “that this was purely a decision on the part of Diamond.”

    The same source also stressed “these manga titles are still being published, and will still available through other substantial channels such as Simon & Schuster, Baker & Taylor, Ingram, AAA Anime and others.” (I added those distributor links, just because.)

    I know I’m not normal

    February 17, 2009

    Among my hobbies is hanging on the words of manga scholar and sometimes translator Matt Thorn. Brigid Alverson makes this very easy by conducting a delightful interview with Thorn for Publishers Weekly Comics Week. Resist the money quote if you dare:

    “First I told them, ‘This whole business model is unmanageable. You’re selling to a subset of a subset. Normal people never walk into comic shops.'”